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My understanding and I assume most Christians believe that omnipotence means the ability to do anything, even the logically impossible things because we believe God transcends logic. Colossians 1:16 says even all the invisible things are created and most Christians believe the laws of logic to be one of them.

Recently, I've learned that Christian apologists do not believe this. They believe omnipotence means the ability to do anything that is logically possible and when asked if God is subject to logic they respond logic flows from God it's his attribute.

My question is this: can someone here explain what it means for God to do only those things which are logically possible? Can he create multiple universes with different laws of physics? Is that logically possible? How about creating something from a philosophical absolute nothing? How about Jesus being both 100% God and 100% Man?

People say "if God is beyond logic then God can be God and not God" well yeah he is...Jesus is both fully (God) and fully Man (not God) right now!

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  • See Omnipotence Feb 2 at 15:18
  • But according to Western Medieval philosophy God's omnipotence does not mean inconsistency: "since power is said in reference to possible things, this phrase, 'God can do all things,' is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible; and for this reason He is said to be omnipotent." Feb 2 at 15:21
  • Maybe the solution is different: God is the ruler and he has defined the logical rules acting on men, not on God himself. Feb 2 at 15:22
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    Apologists have been tap dancing around omni-something concepts because they easily lead to contradictions. For example "could God create a pizza so big even He can't finish it in one meal?" The one who desire the credibility granted by philosophical discourse, a la William Lane Craig, retreated behind the "God is maximally powerful: He can do all that is logically possible" which has its own problems, specifically that it does not define what God can do, only what He can't. The other way is to just say "to hell with logic!", but then you loose all the sceptics, who will refuse to engage.
    – armand
    Feb 2 at 15:25
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    Most Christians do not believe that omnipotence means the ability to do "logically impossible things". No one does even if they think they do. Logic applies not to things but to talking about things, and the talk of logically impossible is just empty. There is nothing for God to do or even to can about it, it is not a limitation on him. Inconsistency of logically complex talk can be non-obvious, so we can not circumscribe what is logically possible. But multiple universes with different laws or creation from nothing simply combine logically unrelated concepts, so they are trivially possible.
    – Conifold
    Feb 2 at 19:00
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This question hinges on the fuzzy and difficult distinction between logical contradiction and paradox.

A logical contradiction is a statement made from within a logical system that expresses antithetical propositions as simultaneously true: the classic 'p and not-p' condition. Within that logical system, a logical contradiction points to a failure of logic. Something, somewhere, has gone wrong, and we need to go back and hunt for bad premises or logical missteps.

A paradox has the same form as a logical contradiction — mutually exclusive propositions are expressed as true — but it is made from above a logical system. A paradox asserts that there is something about a logical system that we do not (yet) understand, and our lack of analytical understanding makes us perceive a contradiction that isn't real. Generally speaking (though perhaps not exclusively), paradoxes occur when something outside logic runs up against 'pure' logic: e.g., Zeno's observation that a runner can never 'logically' cross a finish line when runners 'physically' do that every day, or Russell's paradox pitting the logic of set-inclusion against the real-world (or at least mathematical) notion of a set.

So the issue boils down to this:

  • We have a logical contradiction if God does not obey the laws of logic that he (ostensibly) created
  • We have a paradox if we do not understand the laws of logic (ostensibly) created by God

If we make a statement like "An omnipotent being can/cannot create a stone s'he cannot lift" — and note the similarity to Russell's paradox, which asks whether the set of all sets that do not contain themselves does/doesn't contain itself: a problem of exclusionary inclusion — it may seem like a logical contradiction from our perspective, wrapped as we are in the limitations of human cognition. But from a perspective above our limited view, we may look as silly as a child insisting that a runner can never cross the finish line, because reaching the finish line is contradicted by logic.

How can we know whether we have established a firm contradiction or ensnared ourselves in a mere paradox? That's a far more difficult question than one might imagine.

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If omnipotence is taken to mean "all powers without any restriction", then an omnipotent God is illogical. This in itself is no problem since in this case God has all powers without restriction and so can choose to be or not to be logical. However, all human beings are logical, and God's illogicality would falsify the believers' belief that God created humans in his image. This would make God incomprehensible and foreign to humanity.

If omnipotence is taken to mean "all powers that are logically possible", then it makes God dependent on logical possibility, something which inevitably hurts the original idea of omnipotence, which is that God is somehow "infinite". Well, if God is limited by so trivial a thing as logic, then He is not quite infinite, or only infinite in some trivial sense.

It should be seen as a remarkable feat achieved by the dead philosophers of Ancient Greece that their ideas, and particularly their logical ideas, came to influence the Catholic Church to the point that at least some theologians had to admit that the concept of omnipotence had to comply with human logic. This in itself is also empirical evidence that human beings have an innate sense of logic, something denied by many would-be logicians today. If not, the Catholic Church would not have subjected their concept of omnipotence to any logic at all.

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